Association of Community Theatre
Show Reviews September 2017
by J.B. Priestley
Directed by Alan Bailey
This was a play I was not particularly looking forward to seeing, let alone reviewing, as it was not, in my opinion, a good enough play to be presented. How wrong was I? This presentation from the Garrick exceeded all my expectations. It was beautifully designed, superbly acted by a very talented cast and directed by the equally talented Alan Bailey.
Alan brought out the very best in everyone on stage and the cast rewarded his vision by bringing this play up to the level of Priestley's other time plays.
The play starts with a scream and a gunshot and then blackness. At the curtain rise we learn that ladies, Freda Caplan, Olwen Peel, Betty Whitehouse and Maud Mockridge have been listening to a radio broadcast of a play called “The Sleeping Dog”. And then as the narrative of the play unfolds, we understand the allusion to the radio play's title.
When the men come in from the smoking room, Robert Caplan, Gordon Whitehouse and Charles Stanton, business partners in a firm, they all discuss, with the ladies, the fragment of the play they had just heard and what it might mean. Opinions differ as to revealing the absolute truth. Gordon abandons his attempts to get some dance music on the radio and the conversation deepens and turns to the recent suicide of Robert's clever, but reckless brother, Martin. Olwen makes a slip and reveals it was she and not Gordon who last saw Martin alive. Against the wishes of some of the others, Robert is insistent that the whole truth be told, and the revelations start to snowball.
And as the revelations start, so we begin to know the individual personalities.
Sophie Greenwood, as Freda Caplan is a consummate actor, creating a character that was fully in command of all her actions. Sophie can command the stage by her very stillness, listening to the other players and skilfully adapting her demeanour to the unfolding events. She is a very talented performer and we soon became aware of the friction between her and her husband, Robert, played by Jonathan Pye, an actor who gets better and better with every role he undertakes. The friction between these two became more obvious as the events moved on.
The other couple, Betty Whitehouse, played by Katy Taylor and Gordon Whitehouse played by Matt Dickinson, making his debut with the Garrick, had just the right amount of antagonism between them to lend credence to the fact that theirs was more a marriage of convenience than one of love. The fact that she had been having an affair with Charles Stanton, played by the very talented Simon Bailey, merely confirmed that all was not as it seemed in her marriage. The fact that her husband preferred the company of Martin when he was alive explained her affair with Charles.
Simon Bailey's Charles was every inch the scheming manipulator in this situation, especially when he confessed to having stolen £500 to enable him to woo his mistress, whilst allowing everyone else to think that Martin had stolen the money, and who had committed suicide as an act of atonement.
Involved with all of them was Olwen Peel, played by Laura Chadwick. Laura's performance was beautifully understated and the final revelation when she finally unburdened her secret was skilfully portrayed.
There was a lovely cameo performance from Susan Mullen as Maud Mockridge, an author who would soon, no doubt, create another best selling novel as a result of listening to the play.
There was not a weak link in the cast and individually, and as an ensemble, the playing was of a very high order indeed,
I do have a very slight quibble in that the character of Betty was seated far too long with her back to the audience. For some she unfortunately masked other characters, but this is just a personal niggle
The set was excellent, although I was not too sure about the book cases with the shelves repeating themselves in layout, and lighting and sound were spot on. Completing the picture were excellent props, wigs and wardrobe.
All the hard work and attention to detail by Alan Bailey and his cast made for an enjoyable evening.